May 9, 1992 was a warm spring night in Las Vegas. Fans packed the outdoor arena at The Mirage to see what many were calling, and believed would be, a candidate for fight of the year.
Broadcast live on HBO, fans were treated to the networks 100th championship fight in their long and storied history of broadcasting world class boxing.
The matchup pitted “Terrible” Terry Norris and Medrick “TNT” Taylor. Norris (31-3, 17 KOs) brought in with him the WBC Super Welterweight belt and an impressive list of defeated opponents. This would be the seventh defense of his title.
Norris had fought and beaten seven former world champions including the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Donald Curry, and John “The Beast” Mugabi.
His opponent also carried with him an impressive dossier of accomplishments. Winning a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, Taylor was the reigning WBA Welterweight Champion (29-1-1, 17 KOs) and had only lost once in a spectacular and controversial stoppage against Julio Ceasar Chavez.
Taylor had beaten former champions like Aaron Davis and James “Buddy” McGirt.
To make the fight, an agreement was struck at a catch weight of 150 ½ pounds. Both camps felt this was a fair weight for both of their fighters with Norris, the 154 pound champion and Taylor the 147 pound titlist, both weighing in at 149 pounds.
Both appeared to be in superb condition, were chiseled, and were now on a collision course with destiny. With the dynamic training tandem of Lou Duva and George Benton leading the way, Taylor made his walk to the ring wearing a tiger striped, hooded outfit. He climbed into the ring and circled, shaking the top rope as he bounced his toes on-and-off the mat.
Next came Norris, wearing his now traditional red and white trunks, led by trainer Abel Sanchez. As Norris climbed up the steps and danced around the ring, his father and brother standing close by, he turned to shadow box in his corner.
Jim Lampley pointed out that Norris had the word “knockout” carved into the back of his head.
Michael Buffer then announced his signature “Let’s get ready to rumble!” As expected, the crowd roared its approval. Buffer completed his opening introductions and both fighters came to center ring for referee Mills Lane’s instructions.
With the opening bell looming, we had what looked like a perfect recipe for a great fight.
With Michael Buffer’s introductions, coupled with Lane bellowing, “Let’s get it on,” boxing fans had it all at this point.
The time to rumble and get it on was upon us.
The bell rang to start round one. The pace that the two champions set was fast and furious from the get go with Taylor controlling the first half of the opening round. Both fighters were working off their jabs, working with pulse-quickening speed, and putting together first class combinations.
Norris began launching more of his arsenal in the second half of the round, seemingly evening the score. As the bell sounded to end the first, Merchant rightfully pointed out, “That was state of the art boxing. And it figures to get better.”
As the bell sounded for the second round, the pace was much like the first. The action was sizzling, both men now jabbing less and electing to throw more leather and paying closer attention to working their opponent’s body.
As the round unfolded, it began to become more and more apparent that Norris did not respect Taylor’s power. Taylor and his corner elected to stay inside and bang with Norris.
The strategy would soon prove to be devastating.
The round ended with Norris securing a slight edge. The third round began with Norris bouncing on his toes and with Taylor a little more flat footed. It was evident now that the tide was turning and Norris was slowly taking control.
His jab was in the face of Taylor as Taylor elected to continue to bang inside. Norris, stalking, continued to move forward. With just over a minute to go in the round, Norris landed a sharp, quick, straight right hand that thudded on Taylor’s jaw.
Taylor smiled and stuck out his tongue, signaling his chin was solid. Taylor’s incredible hand speed was clearly being diminished by the strength and power of Norris. Although his hand speed was fading, his resolve and desire remained strong.
As round four got underway, Taylor opened up, whacking away at Norris and at times swinging wildly. The slick gold medalist was abandoning his skills and electing to brawl. His corner asked him in between rounds to jab his way inside and work Norris over. Valiantly, trying to do just that, Norris countered with a chopping-right hand causing Taylor to buckle.
As Taylor tried to bob and weave, Norris threw a second, third and then a fourth right hand as Taylor folded to the canvas.
The always brave Taylor rose. Electing not to box and move, instead taking a page from a slugger’s handbook, he continued to swing wildly at Norris. With 30 seconds to go in the round, the Norris right hand again found a home sending Taylor down for the second time.
Taylor rose, taking the eight-count by Lane who was refereeing his 65th championship fight.
With just 15 seconds remaining, Norris was launching, and landing, straight right hands and vicious left hooks. Lane, peering in on the action with knees bent and right on top of the combat, sprung between the two fighters and embraced Taylor halting the action.
With most of the crowd on its feet, George Foreman concurred, simply stating, “Rightful stoppage.”
When later asked about the quality of the prizefighting, Lane declared, “That was as good a fight as you’ll ever see.”
Adding another champion to his win column, Norris had accomplished victory exactly the way it was embossed into his haircut.
Norris would go on and fight another six years. He would split victories with Simon Brown and engage in a controversial three part series with Luis Santana, losing the first two by disqualification. After losing his last three fights, the Nevada State Athletic Commission turned down Norris for a boxing license.
The NSAC based their decision on his impaired speech, now noticeably slurred, and Norris retired from the sport soon thereafter.
Taylor boxed another 10 years, fighting 15 times after losing to Norris. He finally got his rematch against Chavez and, in another action packed battle, was stopped via TKO.
Regrettably, Taylor also struggled with slurred speech and last fought in 2002.
It’s rare when two current, top flight champions step into the ring to face one another. Prior to going off the air, Lampley summed up the evening by saying, “If you were disappointed in this, you don’t like boxing, so pick something else to do next time.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.